Tag Archives: Easy Mo Bee

2pac – Me Against the World

2pac
Me Against the World
March 14, 1995
Out Da Gutta Records/ Interscope RecordsUMG
073/100
2pac - Me Against the World
1. Intro (performed by Dan O’Leary, Debbie Hambrick, Jay Jensen, Jill Rose & Sarah Diamond) // 2. If I Die Tonite // 3. Me Against the World (feat. Dramacydal & Puff Johnson) // 4. So Many Tears (feat. Digital Underground, Stretch & Thug Life) // 5. Temptations // 6. Young Niggaz (feat. Killa, Funky Drummer & Moe Z.M.D.) // 7. Heavy In the Game (feat. Richie Rich, Ebony Foster & Lady Levi) // 8. Lord Knows (feat. G-Money, Kenyatta Forman, Killa, Kim Armstrong & Natasha Walker) // 9. Dear Mama (feat. Reggie Green & Sweet Franklin) // 10. It Ain’t Easy // 11. Can U Get Away // 12. Old School // 13. Fuck the World // 14. Death Around the Corner// 15. Outlaw (feat. Dramacydal & Rah Rah)

2pac is  the JFK of rap: very charismatic, inspirational and influential, surrounded by drama during his lifetime and conspiracy theories in death, fairly popular when he was alive but never moreso than after he got shot and killed in the public eye and, if we’re being completely honest with ourselves, overrated as hell in what he actually achieved in the realm of the living while nobody can say with any accuracy just what the guy could and would’ve done if his ending was less premature.
It’s not as though the man didn’t leave a slew of commercially and artistically succesful releases in his wake. In fact every album he released up until this one has already gotten a recommendation for a purchase on this website. But he never dropped anything as significant as Ready to DieIllmaticReasonable Doubt or The Chronic and the almost god-like reverence many people had for him, the phrase “best rapper dead or alive” was dropped casually in one sentence with the name 2pac on a regular basis, in the late ’90s and the naughties was ridiculous. A lot of people held the opinion that not only are Brenda’s Got a BabyKeep Your Head Up and Dear Mama deep and meaningful songs (which admittedly they are), but that also they aren’t at all at a contradiction with his more violent, misogynistic, homophobic and otherwise less socially responsible moments, most infamously Hit ‘Em Up. In other words 2pac could get away with pretty much anything on his albums and still be considered a martyr and a saint, so long as he included at least one thoughtful or pseudo thoughtful track on there. The truth is probably that while 2pac, a classically trained actor mind you, was one of the few people in gangsta rap who could deliver both conscious material and hyper violence with equal fervour and credibilty, there was never as much of a unified vision to it as his fanboys would like you to believe. He was just really good at setting moods, no matter what that mood was. And it should be noted that 2pac may have lived a lot of shit he rapped about, he had been in prison and he may not have seriously known or believed it when he layed down some of those vocals but he would eventually meet a violent death in the streets, but there was a lot of fiction in his raps too: He never seriously was a drug dealer for instance and it was sort of mathematically impossibly for him to beef with everyone he mentioned on 7 Day Theory, so Pac may not have been the realest motherfucker to have ever existed, he was however life sized.

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Thug Life – Thug Life: Volume 1

Thug Life
Thug Life: Volume 1
September 26, 1994
Out Da Gutter Records/ Interscope RecordsUMG
063/100
2pac-Thug-Life-Volume-1-cover-big
1. Bury Me a G (feat. Y?N-Vee) // 2. Don’t Get It Twisted // 3. Shit Don’t Stop (feat. Y?N-Vee) // 4. Pour Out a Lil’ Liquor (performed by 2pac) // 5. Stay True (feat. Stretch) // 6. How Long Will They Mourn Me (feat. Nate Dogg) // 7. Under Pressure (performed by 2pac feat. Stretch) // 8. Street Fame (feat. JMJ) // 9. Cradle to the Grave // 10. Str8 Ballin’ (performed by 2pac)

2pac never shied away from weed carriers company. Most of his albums have their fair share of guests appearances. Thug Life: Volume 1 however is the only album released during his lifetime to cast him as a member of a group of equals. In reality though it’s like 2pac is introducing Big Syke, Makadoshis , Rated R & Mopreme and to a lesser extent Stretch to the masses, while launching his vanity label Out da Gutter Records in the process, rather than him truly sharing the spotlight with these guys in equal measure.
Not only are his performances longer and more numerous than those of anyone else supposedly headlining but Pac is also the only one to have solo songs and more importantly has the charisma of five men rolled up in one where the rest is somewhat lacking.

This album was an important one for Pac because on it he first collaborated with a whole bunch of people who would help define his next few albums, such as producer Easy Mo Bee who would go on to produce some of the best songs on his best album Me Against the World, failed rapper and producer Johnny J who made more beats than anyone else on All Eyez On Me, rapper Big Syke who became 2pac’s placeholder on said beats whenever he was having a smoke break but somehow didn’t have his contributions removed before the album went into pressing, possibly because 2pac was in a hurry to release the album, had just used up his entire book of verses and needed all his new ideas for his Makaveli album, Death Row inmate Nate Dogg, and the ladies of R&B group Y?N-Vee who got to sing backup on many of 2pac’s hooks. Digital Underground, the group that introduced 2pac to the world, is nowhere to be found, perhaps because the man wanted to set up shop for himself.

Thug Life: Volume 1 is a heavily censored record but not in the removal of curse words-sense. Entire songs that 2pac wanted to have on here were deleted. At the time of its release hip-hop in general and gangsta rap in particular were under severe criticism by people such as Bob Dole and C. Delores Tucker, which apparently lead to Interscope Records cutting some of the tracks they felt would be controversial. I call bullshit on that however because most of the tracks assumed to have been cut aren’t that different from what did make it. Why would Is It Cool 2 Fuck be considered too controversial when Bury Me a G, almost the exact same song lyrically, is left on? The only exclusion that actually makes any sense in line with this reasoning is the original version of Runnin from tha Police with tha Outlawz, the Notorious B.I.G. and Stretch and only because 2pac had gotten in a gunfight with two off duty policemen in the previous year. (Off course despite the controversy, or maybe even because of it, Interscope would’ve been better off actually releasing the song, in the first place because it sounds awesome but also as a middle finger to censorship, to give this album a high profile guest appearance and to prevent that ghastly Eminem remix that came out nine years later from being hailed as a classic if not preventing its creation and release entirely.)

As it stands Volume 1, which by its very title made a promise for a sequel it wasn’t going to be able to keep, is a messy affair, not just as an album but also within individual songs.
Bury Me a G also makes a false promise by it’s title and it’s mournful instrumental. By all means this should‘ve been a song about fear of death, the afterlife or even under which letter to file Thug Life’s members’ remains in the case of their uneventful demise. It’s a song that’s mostly about one night stands however leading to any listener with an sort of attention span feeling cheated.
How Long Will They Mourn Me pull a similar bait-and-switch and adds insult to injury by wasting a serviceable Nate Dogg hook, or possibly a really shitty one even, it’s very difficult to tell with it being mixed so far into the background of the bluesy Warren G instrumental. (Nate is credited as a co-producer so perhaps the man was trying to protect his reputation and made himself as inaudible as he possibly could without giving up his first non-Death Row paycheque. Apparently someone noticed before the song was released as a single because he sounds much louder on the video version.) The hook asks the listener how long the listener will mourn either Pac or every member of Thug Life while the verses talk about entirely different dead gangstaz. It’s not a big  stretch by any measure but it still comes across as sloppy.
It should be noted that these are some of the best known songs off Volume 1, probably because 2pac talking about violent death always did sound fascinating but never moreso than after he suffered one. Also hip-hop listeners are oft willing to be forgiving of most mistakes in the vocal booth if the beats are on point, which they are here.
Cradle to the Grave is much better than either previously mentioned song and actually works pretty well as a lyrical showcase for the non-2pac members of the group as well as their label boss. Speaking of which, when they’re left unattended by Pac they actually sound a lot like people who could’ve had careers without him. Don’t Get It Twisted and Street Fame are in fact quite decent rap songs and makes one wonder whether these guys could’ve made Volume 2 work despite the star attraction catching a fatal case of the drive by shootings. (The answer is: Probably, but most definitely not on a major label.)
Shit Don’t Stop is an unrelenting West Coast party track that is about nothing in particular, but given this crew’s earlier misunderstandings of concepts and their failures to stay on topic anyway this approach may have been the best one for this crew. This song serves its purpose as something you can dance to which manages not to sound bad. There’s also a version with no 2pac and different verses by the other members, I’m happy to report it sounds just as good as the album version.
Stay True and Under Pressure pair Pac with his boy Stretch and although he was once a suspect in the first 2pac shooting, which does make it somewhat awkward hearing them rhyme together, he was perhaps a better collaborator than the guys 2pac lined up for the better part of this album because he has a more memorable voice than any one of them, bar Syke, and better rhyme skills to boot.
Off course there’s the 2pac solo-shots Pour Out a Lil’ Liquor and Str8 Ballin’ which are fine songs that any fan of the man’s pre-Death Row Records work should enjoy and are perhaps the best reason to pick up Thug Life: Volume 1. After all there’s a reason why even the other guy with a solo career, that would be Big Syke, never became a household name.
Pour Out a Lil’ Liquor is Pac’s first collabo with Johnny J who for better or worse would go on to produce most of All Eyez On Me and it’s another song about mourning, this time of the coherent kind.
Str8 Ballin’ is a collabo with legendary producer Easy Mo Bee who combines some sort of eerie fun fare carrousel ride melody with bubbly funk for Pac to talk about ghetto escapism over to great results.

Thug Life: Volume 1 is a good enough album to satisfy fans of pre-Death Row 2pac. Most of the production is bluesy and understatedly dramatic. The vocals performances by 2pac and his boys are for the most part adequate if at times a bit inconsequential. But if we’re being completely honest with ourselves: The man we all came to see here always was more about setting the mood than being a technically impressive rapper in most senses of the word. Setting moods this album does fairly well and while it probably is the least essential album the man released during its lifetime it’s still decent. And the cutting of several tracks from the playlist has the unintended benefit of making this album short, which is almost never a bad thing.

Best tracks
Don’t Get It Twisted
Pour Out a Lil’ Liquor
Cradle to the Grave
Str8 Ballin’

Recommendations
Pick this one up but try to find a used copy, or at the very least a cheap one. Also you should put 2pacalypse NowStrictly for my N.I.G.G.A.Z. and Me Against the World higher on your list of priorities if you don’t already own those.


King Just – Mystics of the God, The Sex, Money, Cess, and the Blas’e Blah

King Just
Mystics of the God, The Sex, Money, Cess, and the Blas’e Blah
May 26, 1995
Select Records/ Blackfist
065/100
King Just - Mystics Of The God 1995
1. Mystics of the God // 2. Shaolin Soldiers // 3. Skit // 4. Warrior’s Drum [Westside Remix] // 5. Leave Now (feat. Shaolin Soldiers) // 6. No Flows On the Rodeo // 7. Round ‘Em Up // 8. Skit // 9. Can I Get Some? // 10. Skit // 12. Move on ‘Em Stomp [Remix] (feat. Shaolin Soldiers) // 13. Escape From the Zoo // 14. Skit // 15. Warrior’s Drum // 16. Boom Bow! // 17. Hassan Chop

The list of Wu-Tang affiliates is nearly inexhaustible, but I will cover the entire boatload of albums or die trying.

King Just is a rapper from Staten Island who is said to be of native American descent. He was at some point in is career a member of the collective the Hillside Scramblers, which was affiliated with U-God, the Wu-Tang Clan’s least popular individual member who always gets hated on by hip-hop critics and hardcore Wu-fans (though since U-God dropped his third solo-album Dopium all the hate has mysteriously turnt to praise, which must mean that he has sold his soul to the devil or some shit.)
Before that group became a thing however King Just was a guy an undefined affiliation with the Clan with a debut he unsuccessfully tried to sell to the general public making his career very similar to a similarly named artist who goes by the name Timbo King.

For his debut album he got RNS (the fabled mentor of the RZA and the main producer of Shyheim’s eponymous debut album) and Easy Mo Bee (known for producing such legends as Big Daddy Kane and the Notorious B.I.G., as well as the pre-clan debut album by Wu-member GZA), as well as West Coast producer and Alkaholiks member E-Swift to provide the beats, which is a pretty good team to run with. He signed with Select Records, an independent label that’s not so independent inking a deal with it means committing career suicide, and Mystics of the God is the result. Like Shyheim and United We SlamMystics of the God contains no vocals by any actual Wu-members, which is mystifying since even if the big boys were busy recording their debuts at least U-God must’ve been available or some shit.
In the place of Wu-guest verses there are Wu-esquely named group Shaolin soldiers, a group of which King Just himself may or may not have been a member, who pop up on two tracks.

Mystics of da God, despite its obvious lack of involvement of the franchise it’s ambiguously trying to convince you it’s a part of, is an alright substitute for the real thing. That not to say it’s as good as anything by those who are an actual part of the Clan; this King Just person is a competent gangsta rapper, with a nice urgent, agressive flow, slightly reminiscent of what ODB might sound like if he put down the crack pipe and started taking his medication, who knows how not to embarrass himself on the mic.
But he too is unimaginative to really stand out in a crowd of his peers, let alone be in the same league as rap’s equivalent of the Beatles. There’s no outstandingly quotable rhymes on the entire album.

Still, fans of mid-’90s East-coast hip-hop who haven’t heard this yet should definitely give it a spin once. If the guy isn’t much better than generic then he’s certainly no worse. And some of these beats, especially the Easy Mo Bee contributions No Flow on the Rodeo and Can I Get Some really knock, and it’s easy to imagine Ready to Die-era Notorious B.I.G. or Me Against the World-era 2pac (It’s really the same era…) rhyme over them, mostly because Easy contributed beats to those two classic albums as well.

RNS, E-Swift, and even more anonymous producers such as Marcus Peake, Victor Flowers and MZA (Huh? MZA!? The fuck!? What kind of producer name is that!? Word to upcoming hip-hop producers, do not under any circumstances make your artist name a consonant with “ZA” added, this will irrevokably have blog hipsters such as myself draw unfavourable comparisons.) also come correct with their contributions, such as Shaolin Soldiers, which confusingly doesn’t feature the Shaolin soldiers, but does have a Kung-fu sample and a RZA-aping beat.

The best thing on here is probably Warrior’s Drum, which has an RNS beat that switches up occasionally and should get any fan of the second golden age of hip-hop nod to nod his/her head and pimps Just’s alleged native American heritage in a not-too-offensive manner.
Conversely the weakest shit on here is the Westside Remix of the song that inexplicably apperas earlier in the album’s tracklist than the original version does, and tries to fit the song in the G-funk format that was popular on the other side of the USA, and does so in the most boring manner imaginable.

Everything else rests comfortably on 1995’s industry average.

Best tracks
No Flow On The Rodeo
Can I Get Some
Warrior’s Drum
Round Em Up

Recommendations
It’s hard to either outright dismiss or rabidly recommend Mystics of the God to anyone. I’m sure since 1995 Select Record has gone bankrupt three times over and Mystics of the God has been out of print for most of the time following its release and that there’s some people on the internet asking copious amounts of cash for a used copy (This is a recurring thing with many things Wu-related). It’s not worth a small fortune so either you should buy the above songs of iTunes or Spotify or pick up a used copy if you can find it for under $5.- on Amazon.com or a used cd store.


the Genius – Words From the Genius, volume 1

the Genius
Words from the Genius, volume 1
Februari 19, 1991
Cold Chillin’ Records/ Reprise Records/ Warner Bros. Records/ WMG
060/100
the Genius - Words From the Genius

1. Come Do Me // 2. Phony As Ya Wanna Be // 3. True Fresh M.C. // 4. The Genius Is Slammin’ // 5. Words From a Genius // 6. Who’s Your Rhymin’ Hero // 7. Feel the Pain // 8. Those Were the Days // 9. Life of a Drug Dealer // 10. Stop the Nonsense // 11.  Living Foul // 12. Drama // 13. Stay Out of Bars // 14. What Silly Girls Are Made Of // 15.  Superfreak

The story of the Wu-Tang clan is a long one. One that, god willingly, will take this blog and any uneventful reader through a stack of 214 albums – and counting – released the group as a whole, its members, its affiliates and even through soundtracks of films the group’s leader, the RZA, scored.

The obvious starting point would be Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) since it is the album that actually started the movement. Fate however would have it that one of the ten core members of the clan; Gary “GZA/Genius” Grice actually had released an abum before the Clan existed. Words from the Genius is that album.

Released on the Juice Crew’s record label Cold Chillin’ Records in februari of 1991 and produced by Big Daddy Kane’s beatmaker Easy Mo Bee doesn’t show a trace of RZA, Meth, Rae, Ghost, Deck, U-God or ODB, which isn’t strange considering where and when this was released. What is strage is that there are no assists from Big Daddy Kane, Biz Markie, MC Shan or Marley Marl. Considering that he was signed to their label and was a complete unknown at the moment one would think that a guest verse by at least one of these legends would both be a major selling point and something that shouldn’t be too difficult to arrange.

But no, this is just Easy and GZA and the occasional no-name producer for the entirety of Words from the Genius with zero guest appearances, which in today’s rap music landscape is almost unthinkable.

Words From the Genius‘ instrumentals shouldn’t be compared to the dark cinematic instrumentals the RZA would serve up on Enter the Wu-Tang. Easy Mo Bee’s classic old school beats have little to do with Prince Rakeem, in stead one should put it toe-to-toe with albums by the aforementioned Kane and Biz Markie, classic, swinging and a bit simplistic but still comfortably above the old school average. Still this album released at the end of the period in which this style of rap was popular doesn’t add much to Cold Chillin’ Records’ list of achievements as Kane and Biz had done just about everything there was to do with this particular style of rap. Also since nobody purchased it it didn’t earn anybody a gold plaque.

As for GZA himself, sounds exactly how he would on subsequent releases, which is to say he’s in fine form, all that’s different this time around is the beats. Lyrical themes include GZA’s mic superiority over other rappers (Genius is Slammin’), nostalgia (Those Were the Days) and the dangers of pubs (Don’t Go Into bars).

As a whole Words is pleasant, jazzy oldschool affair that’s fine when it is on but evaporates immediately from the listener’s conscience when it stops spinning. It’s a pretty consistent release, the only song that outright sucks is the Wu-jack swing opener Come Do Me. The rest is just fine, but nothing special.

Best tracks
Those Were the Days
Drama
Genius Is Slammin’
Stay Out of Bars

Recommendations
If you’re a fan of the Cold Chillin’ records brand of rap music and you haven’t yet heard this you should definitely give this a spin. Fans of the Wu needn’t really bother.